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Our Blog
June 16, 2012 | Matthew Dodrill

The Colossian Blog: An Invitation to a New Kind of Conversation

Greetings, and welcome to The Colossian Blog!

We are glad you are here, and it is our prayer that you are enriched and blessed by the content posted in the coming weeks, months, and years. Our mission at The Colossian Forum is to unite Christian believers in the shared confession and embodied practice that all things hold together in Christ (Col. 1:17). As many of us have observed, the tone of the conversation regarding the intersection of faith, science, and culture is often vitriolic and divisive. Rather than accepting the differences among believers as gifts, we often stake our hope in our individual “positions” at the expense of Christian unity. At The Colossian Forum, however, we strive to foster a new kind of conversation guided by the truth that all things, including our differences, are held together in Jesus Christ. When we confess that all things hold together in Christ, we confess that the core of the world is peaceful communion, not competition that breeds fear and division.

But we understand the fear. Science and cultural research often lead us into the realm of unknowing, where we are out of our comfort zones and beyond familiar territory. We believe, however, that we are free to investigate the realm of unknowing because, once again, Christ holds together the things we know with the things we do not know. We should thus have confidence in where our investigations lead us, not because we have faith in science or cultural research, but because we have faith in the Lord Jesus, who holds together the truth of our investigations. Our hope is that this shared confession at least reduces the fear, and that it eventually teaches us that fear is not necessary in our pursuit of truth.

Okay, so all things hold together in Christ. We can start the conversation now, right? Well, we don’t believe it’s that easy. A lot of people believe that merely having the right information enables them to have productive conversations on, say, the intersection of faith and science. But we believe it’s important to ask if we’re even the kinds of people who can have this conversation. In other words, we believe there are requisite virtues that enable us to remain unified throughout a dialogue that is likely to reveal many differences of opinion and serious disagreements. While information and ideas are important, they are not sufficient to sustain the unity of believers who choose to enter this conversation. Rather, there must also be the formation of believers within the context of our worship together (Col. 3:15-17). After all, the shared confession that all things hold together in Christ is also an embodied practice – we actually act out the truth that Christ holds all things together by being charitable and hospitable to each other.

Charity is the primary virtue of The Colossian Forum, and hospitality is charity put into practice. On The Colossian Blog, we encourage all featured writers and visitors to exhibit the Christian charity and hospitality that is cultivated in our churches. We desire that all visitors use this virtual space as a location in which to practice and exercise wisdom, charity, patience, and compassion for the sake of Christian unity, discipleship, and reconciliation. Without the formation of these virtues, we cannot be unified in the pursuit of the Spirit’s wisdom. This is true because the inverse is true: without the Spirit’s wisdom, we cannot be formed into virtuous people. We hope that you seek the Spirit’s wisdom for the purpose of cultivating the virtues that will bless your conversation partners, even if there are significant disagreements or differences of opinion. The communion you have with your Christian brothers and sisters on this blog is far more important than your individual positions. After all, Christian unity bears witness to the glory of God; at a time when the internet is a primary source of communication, research, and information, you can be sure that the world is watching how we treat each other in the blogosphere.  What’s more, when we seek communion with believers, we are able to pursue truth the right way: together.

As we invite you to grapple with the issues at the intersection of faith, science, and culture, we ask that you be mindful of our Writers’ Guidelines and Forum Etiquette. The former explains the mission and goals we want shared by our writers and visitors, and the latter explains how we generally expect our visitors to conduct themselves on our blog. We think it would benefit all visitors to read over these links before diving in to the comment sections.

Again, we are glad you are here, and we look forward to the insights you have to offer. In the next post I will highlight some of the points raised by James K.A. Smith in his recent review of Peter Enns’ book The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins. Stay tuned.

Comments (2)
Luke D on June 21, 2012 at 9:25 pm

great start guys, you got me excited for what will come on this forum. Great video and great opening statements, a truley good step forward and I look forward to watching where you go with this and learning from you as well as walking with you!

Blessings in Christ- through whom we all exist!

I am excited!

bryan halferty on June 29, 2012 at 10:41 pm

Thanks so much for this vision. As a college pastor I often feel the tension as I seek to lead and provoke the conservative-churched and seeker-unchurched, simultaneously. I’m looking forward to passing this site on.

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Isolation is one of the deep pains we are experiencing as churches and individuals right now. The changes brought about by COVID-19 highlight how many ways we are separated from each other, even in God’s family. But loneliness in the Church isn’t new. As a millennial Christian, I know we have a habit of hopping from one church to another and a reputation for leaving the Church altogether. When I was in college, I attended several churches but never really got plugged in. I was always assigned to an age group, meaning I missed out on perspectives, growth opportunities, and encouragement outside my bubble. That’s part of the reason I love the inter-generational aspect of The Colossian Way. It pulls you out of your echo chamber and says, “look at all these voices that make up the Church.” It’s not just millennials who get stuck in echo chambers or feel isolated. As I coordinate our trainings and workshops and connect people with faithful conflict engagement resources, I see church leaders burdened with the heavy responsibility of supplying answers to hard questions and responding to conflict, all while holding their congregations together. It’s easy to feel alone in your struggle to navigate culturally divisive conflicts in the Church. My favorite part of hosting Colossian Way trainings is seeing Christians make connections to others struggling with difficult disagreements. To come together, to name those struggles, and to work toward a way forward – knowing you may never agree – is an incredible gift. But does that unity and relationship carry over to a grid of tiny Zoom boxes? Back in March, my colleague and I decided to lead a Colossian Way group online to see if it was possible to practice discipleship through Christian conflict engagement virtually. Here’s what we learned: Technological Skill Level Isn’t a Barrier to Participation: Facilitators should familiarize themselves with the video platform they use by accessing tutorials and perhaps investing in a paid account to access convenient features. Small group participants just need a strong internet connection and be able to log on to the platform. It’s Important to Get Used to New Conversational Rhythms: When you meet online, conversational rhythms of talking and listening can become more rigid; you lose the moments of excited interruption and “turn to the person next to you” conversations. Just like in an in-person small group, Facilitators should learn to be comfortable with silence and carefully manage time. If your platform allows you to split up into breakout rooms, be mindful of the extra time those technological transitions take. Take the Extra Time for Relationships: In the Colossian Way groups I’ve led, we took a little extra time to get to know each other. 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In addition, we’ve designed training and resources to support you every step of the way. And, in August, Facilitator Training will be available online, making it easier than ever to equip yourself to guide your church to navigate conflicts in Christ-like ways. I’m a runner, so I’ll use a running metaphor. You can run barefoot. You may step on some pebbles, hit the pavement too hard, or scrape your toe, but you’ll absolutely get from point A to point B. But a good pair of running shoes will support you and help you run better. A good pair of shoes will protect you from rocks, support your feet, and help you run faster, longer. The Colossian Way Facilitator Training is like a good pair of running shoes. It teaches you how to balance your time, respond when somebody in your group monopolizes the conversation, and how to manage your own anger and anxiety. And perhaps most valuable, Training brings you into a community, because even though running can seem like a solitary sport, our endurance and speed get a boost when someone runs beside us or cheers us on at the finish line. For information about our newest small-group series, Political Talk, including how to become a Facilitator register for an upcoming free, one-hour webinar. To support other “runners” on this Colossian Way journey, I invite you to donate today to help provide online training and eBook curricula to Christian leaders looking for a way to hold together in Christ.
Does it Work? Discipleship and Witness.
June 8, 2020 | Emily Stroble
Does it Work? Discipleship and Witness.
We see face masks everywhere. Articles fill our news feeds every day, explaining precautions, studies, and the potential effectiveness of innovative solutions for disinfecting our surroundings. We also lament. Outcries against injustice fill our communities. We strive to discern how we are called, in this moment, to “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8). But will any of it work? It’s a fundamental, bold question, demanding we evaluate the results something produces against its purpose. We are often asked if The Colossian Way works. Our community of over 850 small-group participants in 10 denominations answers with a resounding “yes.”  But what does that mean? First, we must clear up a few misconceptions about The Colossian Way. Some people come to The Colossian Way expecting it to help them change their opponent’s mind or to quickly resolve interpersonal disputes. They will be disappointed. The purpose of the Colossian Way is to equip Christians to navigate deep, cultural conflicts in a way that results in discipleship and witness. “Discipleship” and “witness,” then, are the measure by which we know whether The Colossian Way works. They are central to The Colossian Way because they are central to the life of the Church. The Great Commission, the foundational purpose statement of the Church, commands Christians to “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel,” (Mark 16:15) and “make disciples of every nation” (Matthew 28:19). Discipleship and witness change us. Discipleship goes beyond teaching. It evokes a commitment from the pupil to adopt and be formed by the teaching. Similarly, witness goes beyond talking about the Gospel, meaning to testify or give evidence, to live as evidence of Christ’s redemptive work. Conflict has always existed at the center of Christian life, right alongside discipleship and witness. Most of the New Testament is concerned with the witness and discipleship, often in the context of deep cultural conflict. Paul writes frequently about factions within the church, responding to civil authority, and issues around socioeconomic status, to name a few. So, if The Great Commission commands us to disciple and witness, if the Epistles aim to design a Christian community that does just that, let us ask a bold question: Does the Church work?  In a 2015 study by the Barna Group, only 1% of church leaders stated they thought churches were doing discipleship “very well.” A 2017 Lifeway Research Survey found that 32% of young people leaving the church listed hypocrisy as their reason, another 29% didn’t feel connected to their church, and 25% cited political disagreement. The media conveys a similar image of a hypocritical, insular, divided Church, indicating that the same issues that drive congregants away may also prevent them from coming in the first place. While these statistics don’t present a full picture of the Church, they indicate the work to be done if we are to fulfill our purpose as the Body of Christ.  The Colossian Forum has committed to coming alongside churches doing this work. Henry, a pastor trained in The Colossian Way and a member of his Christian Reformed Church Classis’ Healthy Church Task Force, put it this way: “The heart of it is a number of us thinking, ‘how do we work with conflict differently than we have before?’ … The approach can be applied to many things. I’ve heard retired pastors and newer pastors respond immediately that’s exactly what we need to be doing.” The Colossian Way helps church leaders build that different, consistent, approach to navigate the difficult questions and decisions they face right now. Conflict will certainly continue as we begin to regather our congregations and political tensions increase heading into the fall. The bold question that remains is “will the Church work in the face of the deep brokenness of the world?” We invite you to join us with your prayers, leadership, and support. Like many non-profits, The Colossian Forum put its fundraising efforts on hold to focus on the needs of our community in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, as we prepare to offer vital decision-making and conflict-engagement resources, training, and support in this critical time, we’re working to match $4,000 pledged by several cornerstone donors by July 10. Our total goal of $8,000 will help equip leaders through forthcoming online training, translate our curriculum into an accessible ebook format, and develop whole-church practices for conflict engagement and decision-making. Give today at colossianforum.org/give.

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